Someone once said, moaning cleanses the soul. Me, it was me. I just said it. Many things in day to day life grind my gears. For instance, when intellectually stunted girls begin sentences with: ‘I’m not being funny, but….’Don’t worry. It wasn’t funny, one bit. A second instance, is when I get uncontrollably enamoured by a film I’ve seen, proceed to reinforce my love with the approval from my bible of all review websites, Rotten Tomatoes, only to find a shockingly contrasting rating to what I expected to encounter. Being an amalgamation of different opinions from various critics, it’s almost always a trust worthy source that corresponds with my judgements. Saying that, these instances are very rare, but for I Origins, I anticipated a higher rating than just 53%.
Another Earth director Mike Cahill addresses the interesting theme of religion vs science in his second feature film. I Origins’ dogmatic philosophical approach may seem pretentious to some, but its intriguing subject is undisputedly intended to disarray the heart strings. As someone very much fascinated by the ideology of souls and spirituality, but also a cynical realist, the concept of questioning the universe is at the top of my list, and I’m sure similarly is for other like-minded thinkers.
Scientist Ian Grey (Michael Pitt) is a PhD student researching the evolution of the eye. Rather than a belief in fate, his life philosophies are based on solid facts and science, and through his explorations he hopes to prove the non existence of god. In an engaging opening scene Ian meets a masked female at a Halloween party named Sofi (Astrid Berges-Frisbey). The closed off mysterious girl quickly disappears from the party, and after their brief but captivating encounter, Ian is left with just a picture he took of her eyes. He adds this to his visually mesmerising collection of Iris snapshots and becomes infatuated with seeing her unique eyes once again. Fate seems to reunite the two, and the cynical scientist is brought face to face with circumstances that contrast completely with his firm beliefs. It is in fact science itself that leads him to question these beliefs, as him and his lab partner Karen, (Brit Marling) studying non-seeing organisms, begin to develop an eye from scratch.
The idea of using the ‘eye’to evoke a debate of interpretations from both scientific and spiritual stances is rather genius. Never mind the characters; the eye itself, as something to think about, but something you never really ever think about, is almost interesting enough. For example, all people with blue eyes share a common ancestor. Cool, right? Every single adult in this world has the exact same diameter of eye, but every single eye is completely unique to each person. There’s another. When I left the cinema I found myself noticing strangers eyes more than I normally would. Wondering about all the amazing things those eyes have shown them through the years. What their favourite view of all time has been. Your eyes define you on this earth. When you’re dead and gone, your once shining and bright distinctive eyes that brought you this world will also appear dead and empty. We have all heard ‘the eyes are the window to the soul’, and perceptions like these make it seem a possibility. On the other hand, from the scientific view point, the eye has a diameter of 24mm, only 1/6th is exposed and there are over 7 million colour cones that detect colour. Yes it’s impressive, but facts and figures equate to science and evolution, awakening quite a veteran debate. The dispute is conveyed through two characters who share an exhilarating love, and Ian’s opinions begin to be swayed by Sofi’s spiritual ideas.
I must confess, despite being rigorously impassioned by my first viewing of I Origins, watching it again some days later left me with a slightly lesser sentiment. I failed to notice that almost every line of dialogue is some sort of philosophical speech, alongside the amount of in-your-face establishing shots conveying conceptions already expressed enough through other means. We get the point Cahill. Having said that, its appeal is probably an acquired taste and I am a sucker for these types of ‘deep and meaningful’articulations. Its flaw also lies in cramming way too much into the plot line half way through. It even diverts the complicated concept all the way to India, which begins to feel like a whole different film. However, this confusing plot turn is somewhat validated by an unexpected and emotional end.